Shopping and potato heaven!

Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, September 27, 2003

We're now in Dali, a beautiful town set between towering cloud shrouded mountains and a large lake. It's very touristy but in a fun way. There are many busloads of Chinese tourists and not so many westerners here at the moment. It's hilarious as we've become one of the tourist attractions! A group of us will be sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe, and Chinese tourists will take photos of us or film us with their video cameras. Now we know how the costumed hill tribe people feel!!

As Yunnan province borders Tibet (and also has lots of ethnic minority groups) the market stalls are colourful with silver and beaded jewellery, batik material and colourful clothing. There's great street food, in particular chunks of baked potato on skewers coated in chilli powder. Finally, somewhere in Asia with baked potatoes!! China is the last place I would have expected them. There are a few bizarre characters wandering around town such as the foot fetish man (an old Chinese guy who examines everyone's shoes all the time - we're trying to work out if he's fascinated with our comparitively large feet or sells/makes shoes?!) and the lady who targets Steve every time we walk past trying to sell him ganja. She doesn't bother anyone except him, and can't get over the fact he doesn't want to buy any!

A group of us hired bicycles to explore Dali's surrounds this morning. It was such beautiful scenery and we encountered so many friendly (and fascinated!) locals. We rode along trails through rice paddies and vegetable farms, cobble-stone pathed villages and and down to the lake. At one point we encountered a primary school where the kids were so excited they were screaming and laughing and crowding around us on our bikes. When we left we seriously had 100 or so kids standing at the gates waving us goodbye. I'm sure the teachers were impressed...!

Last night we celebrated Jewish new years with our Isreali entourage (and an American and a German for a bit of variety) and learnt some of their customs, like eating apple with honey for a sweet year ahead. I've also been learning the Jewish art of haggling and am now getting things for a quarter (or less!) of the asking price, it's great to have good bargainers as friends! We've also explored the city walls surrounding the centre of town which was interesting - great views and atmosphere.

China really does keep surprising us - it's nothing like we expected, and is so varied in people and cultures and cuisines. Speaking of which, it's time for more Tsingtao and Gongbao chicken - this may turn out to be a hard country to leave!
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